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Jewish Hegelians

Tue, December 18, 2:30 to 4:00pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Beacon Hill 2 & 3

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel illustrates the diverse philosophical and theological projects constituting mid-nineteenth-century German Jewish Hegelianism. At a time when Hegel’s writings prevailed as the most influential philosophical system of the day—and when the political and theological consequences of Hegel’s philosophical claims remained the subjects of intense debate—German Jewish thinkers, like their Protestant counterparts, actively developed, modified, and subverted Hegel’s works. Whereas multiple accounts of Protestant Hegelians have been published, this panel offers one of few existing accounts of Jewish Hegelians, including Samuel Hirsch, Ludwig Philippson, and Gotthold Salomon.

This panel highlights the diverse strands of mid-nineteenth-century German Jewish Hegelian thought. Adopting a multiplicity of methods and speaking to disparate audience, German Jewish Hegelians resist easy classification. In his “Banishing Hegel from the Garden of Eden,” Robert Erlewine focuses on the Garden of Eden narrative of Genesis 3 to examine how Samuel Hirsch frames his DIE RELIGIONSPHILOSOPHIE DER JUDEN(1842) as a confrontation with Hegel’s LECTURES ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION. In her “Ludwig Philippson and Hegelian Biblical Scholarship,” Alexandra Zirkle traces how Philippson develops a Hegelian historiosophy to frame his DIE ISRAELITISCHE BIBEL (1839-54), in order to subvert the Hegelian biblical scholarship of Wilhelm Vatke and Bruno Bauer. In his “Jewish Reactions to Bruno Bauer’s Secular Supersessionism,” George Kohler examines the famous debate around Bruno Bauer’s pamphlet “Die Judenfrage” (1842) by focusing on the theological responses of Samuel Hirsch, Hermann Jellinek, and Gotthold Salomon and illustrating how they refigured Hegelian supersessionism through recourse to the notion of a unique ethical mission of Judaism to humanity.

These three intellectual historical moments reveal how German Jews adopted and modified Hegel’s works to their own specific ends and confirm the centrality of nineteenth-century thinkers to the field of modern Jewish thought.

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